Holyrood considers extending to a five-year term



Scottish-Parliament-logoVoters could be asked to elect the next intake of MSPs for a five-year term to avoid an electoral clash with the UK general election expected in 2020.

The devolved parliament has four-year terms, but is barred by law from holding elections at the same time as UK general elections, European Parliament elections or local council elections, owing to a history of confusion and spoiled ballots.

Presiding officer Tricia Marwick intends to write to the Scottish secretary David Mundell to ask for the power to change the date of the 2020 Holyrood election.

She also hinted towards ‘permanent reform’ of the electoral timetable when electoral law - including franchise, voting age, and electoral system - is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The election after next year’s could be moved either to 2021, extending the parliament to a five-year term, or 2019, which would cut it to three years.

The Scottish Parliament election in 2016 would have taken place in 2015, but was postponed as a one-time measure when the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 set the date of the UK general election.

The devolved Northern Ireland Assembly was also set for an election in 2015, but will switch permanently to five-year terms from 2016 under the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said: “With the backing of all party leaders at Holyrood, the Presiding Officer will write to the new Secretary of State for Scotland to request a Section 30 so that the Scottish Parliament can quickly take steps to avoid a clash of elections in May 2020.

“The PO made clear to the outgoing Secretary of State that the Section 30 would be solely for this purpose and to bring clarity on the matter.”